When my now 1-year-old daughter was presented with a gluten intolerance at 2-months-old, I was determined to continue breastfeeding, but was mourning the loss of my favorite gluten-filled treats, pasta being a main one. As an Italian girl, I love my pasta, so the search began for the best wheat and gluten-free alternatives. After a few hits and many misses, here are my top 5 gluten-free pasta alternatives:
Quinoa Pasta: With quinoa being all the rage lately, quinoa pasta is an easy alternative to traditional wheat pasta. It’s a great high protein, low cal option.
Pros: It holds up well, maintaining a firm texture even when slightly over cooked. Quinoa boasts high protein at 8 grams per cup and a low calorie count, with one cup weighing in at only 222 calories.
Cons: It has a chewy texture to the point where there is no mistaking that these are not in any way shape or form wheat noodles.
Brown Rice Pasta: Although high in calories, with a 2 ounce portion boasting 200 calories, brown rice pasta cooks well and is loaded with insoluble fiber.
Pros: It holds up well, holding a firm but soft texture. With all if its insoluble fiber, brown rice pasta will keep your digestive system regular and help with bloating.
Cons: The high calorie content means that even small portions of this pasta alternative will add up quickly. Use sparingly as a side dish or load it up with veggies as a main dish to keep the calories at bay!
Shirataki Noodles: You’ve probably seen them advertised as “Miracle Noodles.” These zero calorie, fat-free pasta noodle alternatives are made from the root of the Konnyaku Imo plant. They are loaded with fiber and are easy to prepare.
Pros: With no calories, no fat, no cook time, and no taste, they take on the flavor of whatever you have with them. No fuss. No guilt.
Cons: These little miracles come “wet” as they are packed in liquid. Some people aren’t fond of the liquid packaging and choose to rinse or boil them before adding them to a dish.
Spaghetti Squash: This large oval yellow squash is easy to prepare. Simply cut in half, de-seed, and place in a microwave safe dish with a shallow water bath, then cover and cook for 15 minutes. Scrape the meat of the squash out to get strands of “spaghetti.”
Pros: Clearly being a vegetable to begin with, the spaghetti squash does little to mask what it is, and so it delivers an honest veggie texture. But it’s also a healthy and interesting way to enjoy your favorite pasta dishes, and you don’t feel like you’re sacrificing good taste for healthier options.
Cons: To cook a whole squash, you’re looking at a 30 minute process. With pasta dishes as typically quick, go-to meals, this alternative is better if prepared the day before.
Mixed Grain Gluten-Free Pastas: Get the best of all the worlds with mixed grain pastas, like Ronzoni’s Gluten-Free pastas, made with white rice, brown rice, corn, and quinoa. It cooks well with a soft texture like a brown rice pasta, yet tastes more like regular pasta with its white rice and corn.
Pros: For the “real” pasta experience while going gluten-free, this is the way to go.
Cons: Like its brown rice pasta cousin, this gluten-free pasta variety is far from low cal and should be enjoyed only in moderation as part of a low cal, waist line friendly diet.
For sheer taste factor, Mixed Grain Gluten-Free pastas take the number one position on my gluten-free pasta list, but with a variety of options that range from low-cal to calorie-free, the options are endless for an indulgent (or only seemingly indulgent) gluten-free pasta feast!